I’m, like, super into healthier versions of fall comfort food. I mean first of all, fall flavors are the best. The BEST. And secondly, it’s totally possible to eat comforting, stick-to-your-ribs foods without over-indulgence. Case in point: this Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese.
This recipe takes me back to my childhood, when my sister and I would have playdates with our friends Lil and Devon. Their mom would make us Annie’s mac and cheese mixed in with peas and carrots for dinner, and it. was. the. best. Today we’re swapping out peas and carrots for an herbaceous butternut squash puree. It’s seasoned with sage and thyme, giving the macaroni an instant fall feel.
But like it’s still cheesy and delicious, too. I used my favorite cooking cheese, gruyere, as well as mozzarella for creaminess.
This homemade mac and cheese could be finished on the stove if you’re feeling lazy, but for presentation I topped it off with more cheese and a sprinkling of breadcrumbs. Into the oven for 5 minutes, et voila. Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese fit for a King. Or Queen.
How to make mac and cheese
If you know how to make the boxed stuff, you’re more than capable of whipping up a batch of this homemade mac and cheese. First, the butternut squash gets roasted until it’s fork-tender and fragrant. It’s then pureed with a bit of stock until smooth (you might have extra puree, just fyi).
Once the squash is pureed, you’ll need to make a basic roux, which is just a mixture of butter and flour. Milk is then added in to make a thick sauce, along with the three (!!) types of cheese and squash puree. After that, it’s just a matter of stirring in the mac and spooning everything into a baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs and broil for a few minutes until the top starts to bubble and turns golden brown.
This homemade mac and cheese keeps well in the fridge for a few days and is easily reheated. To avoid rubbery reheated pasta, portion out some mac and cheese into a small saucepan and add a few tablespoons of milk. Heat it over medium-low heat with the lid on for round two of perfectly creamy mac and cheese.
By the way, my second Food Photography Workshop starts today in Napa, CA, and I’m SO excited. I’ll be spending the weekend with 12 lovely attendees in the most stunning house I think I’ve ever seen. Gah. I can’t wait to show you guys.
Preheat oven to 400Â°F. Place butternut squash on a large roasting pan. Toss with fresh sage, thyme, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the squash is fork-tender and begins to turn a darker yellow orange color. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
In a large blender, puree squash with chicken or vegetable stock. If puree is too thick, add in an additional 1/4 cup stock. Reserve 2 1/2 cups of squash puree for macaroni. If you have any left over, you can use it for something else!
Cook macaroni in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. You want the macaroni to be slightly undercooked, as it will continue to cook once it is incorporated into everything else. Drain and set aside.
Set oven to “broil.” Lightly grease a 9×13 baking pan and set aside.
In a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, until mixture turns fragrant and light golden brown. Whisk in milk, salt, and black pepper, then cook until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and add in reserved butternut squash puree and mascarpone, stirring to combine. Cook for 2 minutes, then add in half of the Le Gruyere and half of the mozzarella. Stir until cheese is melted completely. Add in cooked pasta and stir to combine.
Pour into prepared baking pan. Combine breadcrumbs with thyme and sage. Top macaroni first with remaining Le Gruyere and mozzarella, then with breadcrumb mixture.
Broil for 3-5 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and the cheese melts completely. Serve immediately!